This smart app makes the MacBook Pro’s notch super useful

Since the release of the 2021 MacBook Pro, its notch has been a source of fascination – and derision. It’s a shame, because this is truly one of the best laptops we’ve reviewed all year. Still, we totally got it: the notch looks pretty darn weird.

Fortunately, the developer of one of the best macOS utility apps has come to the rescue. Andreas Hegenberg, the spirit behind BetterTouchTool, has updated their app with a new beta feature called Notch Bar.

Close-up of the 2021 MacBook Pro showing its display notch.

This places a black bar on either side of the MacBook’s notch, essentially making it disappear. “So what? Lots of other apps already do that,” you hear yourself say. But BetterTouchTool takes it one step further and adds customizable buttons to that black bar. It’s like a control strip for quick access shortcuts. In other words, it makes the new notch much more useful.

As with everything in BetterTouchTool, the strength of the notch bar lies in its flexibility. You can use it to display widgets like the current weather or whatever you play in Apple Music. It can launch specific apps or perform defined shortcuts and gestures. It integrates tightly with Apple’s Shortcuts app, letting you start your automations with a single tap or click. And you can add volume and brightness controls – and even an emoji button – in the notch bar, much like the touch bar on the old MacBook Pro. During this time, you can change the icon, colors and label of each button.

The main advantage is that since the notch bar is always present, you always have your shortcuts at hand. There’s no need to remember a bewildering array of keyboard shortcuts or switch between multiple apps. Instead, everything is located at the top of the screen.

I just added brightness and volume scroll widgets and emoji widget to the alpha BTT Notch Bar. Slowly things are falling into place, I think for Christmas I can do a first non alpha version. Still a lot of bugfixes to be done until then🙂 https://t.co/UBBb7Tb1cJ

– Andreas Hegenberg (@LLo_ai) December 17, 2021

Showing a little more the flexibility of the functionality, Hegenberg demonstrated two potential orientations of the notch bar: one where the macOS menu bar hides out of sight until you move your pointer to the top of the screen, and another where the notch bar is above a static menu bar.

Right now the notch bar is still a beta feature, so some bugs and glitches are to be expected. For example, Hegenberg recommends that you use dark mode in MacOS so that your menu bar is also dark, which helps it adapt to the dark buttons on the notch bar. Over time, we expect these issues to be resolved.

Even without the notch bar, BetterTouchTool is worth reviewing. It lets you review almost any touch input device for your Mac, including the trackpad, touch bar, magic mouse, Siri remote, and more. If you don’t like how your touch controls work, BetterTouchTool lets you tweak and adjust them as you like, adding new macOS gestures and shortcuts instead of relying on Apple’s default settings.

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